Matan Kahana
Matan KahanaIsrael National News

Speaking at Reichman University (IDC Herzliya) on Tuesday, Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana (Yamina) weighed in on the current controversy surrounding women in IDF combat units, and questioned whether the issue of equal rights should trump military efficiency and other issues.

Although equality between the sexes is important, Kahana told students, it is not inviolable when it threatens to harm other values.

He added that there are areas of the armed forces, such as the Air Force, where integrating women is far simpler for a number of reasons, and noted that pilots are not required to have the physical strength and stamina of combat troops in the infantry in units such as the elite 669 Unit, where the IDF is now planning to "conduct an experiment" integrating women. "That's going to be extremely tough," he said, describing the high standards expected of 669's soldiers.

"And even if we do succeed in finding one, two, or four women who are capable of meeting those standards," he continued, "is it really justified to integrate women into the infantry when doing so harms other values?"

The values he was referring to, explained Kahana, were the rights of religious soldiers, who enlist in combat units in significant numbers, to serve according to their beliefs, as serving in a mixed-gender unit is extremely problematic according to halakhah (Jewish law).